Letters from the Dorm: Discovering different cultures helps you discover different sides of yourself and ways to live

Letters from the Dorm: Discovering different cultures helps you discover different sides of yourself and ways to live

Spending time in a foreign country forces you out of your comfort zone, which helps you to grow as an individual

Your day-to-day routine gets messed up when you live abroad. You can’t go to the restaurant you love because it’s thousands of miles away, or you can’t play the sport you enjoy because it’s not common where you currently study. You’re forced to eat something else, and to find new activities.

Still, even though it can be annoying, what I love about moving abroad is that you have no choice but to shake things up. You get to discover new things about yourself. For example, in Spain, I had to get used to a different eating schedule. I have a big lunch at 2pm and a late dinner at 9pm, and I fill up on snacks in between. I have learned that I really like having a large lunch and a small dinner. It gives me the energy I need to get through the day. The “siesta time” (the hours between 2pm and 5pm when most shops are closed) forces me to take a break which hugely improves my ability to function later on. I have also picked up painting, which I really enjoy.

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When you live abroad, you’re going to run into people who have ways of thinking that are very different to yours. This might make you feel uncomfortable, but that is actually a good thing – it will help you discover what’s most important to you. What actions, opinions, or ways of life make you most uncomfortable? And why does it matter? Hopefully realising this will also help make you more open to others, and more accepting of their values and opinions.

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I actually feel very much at home here in Spain, where I am on an exchange programme. This is very different to how I’ve felt in other countries. One of the only minor differences in culture that I found jarring at first was the “kiss greeting”. Here, you are greeted with a kiss on each cheek when you meet for the first time (if both are men, though, it’s just a handshake and a hug). The first time a guy tried this, I jumped and pushed him away. Now I think it’s kind of cool that you’re forced to break the ice with everyone in the group in such an intimate way.

For me, the most valuable things I have taken away from the places I’ve been to aren’t physical items. They are ways of living. Hong Kong has taught me respect and given me a work ethic. Canada taught me how to speak up and be heard. Spain is teaching me how to enjoy life and how to spend it with others. There are so many other things I am learning, too. You can follow them on my Instagram account, @taliwaztravels!

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Discovering yourself abroad

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